Have you ever had a dream in which you have realised that you’re dreaming? This kind of dream is known as “lucid” and it has some remarkable properties.
A lucid dream is generally far more realistic than a “normal” one, often brighter and vividly coloured. The senses of hearing, touch and taste may also be experienced (although pain is rare). Although you’re asleep, your conscious mind is also functioning, so that you can explore your dream world and reflect on what you find there. Also, perhaps because of the realism, lucid dreams are more likely to be remembered after waking than ordinary ones, which often fade very quickly. Speaking personally, I hardly ever remember my non-lucid dreams, but memories of a few of the lucid ones that I’ve had have stayed with me for years.
Perhaps the most important point about lucid dreams is that you can control them – to some extent, anyway. If you’ve been having an unpleasant dream, for example, you can take action to deal with whatever’s been bothering you. To give one example of my own: I dreamed I was being menaced by a tiger. I concentrated on it, made it shrink, and it turned into a cat! There are also possibilities for creativity and problem solving, and even healing, both psychological and physical, although research into healing in this way is in its infancy.
Lucid dreams can be either spontaneous or induced deliberately. The basic trick is to notice something “wrong” or impossible in your dream – a tiger in your bedroom, for example. Speaking of bedrooms, there is the related experience of the “false awakening”; you seemingly wake up, get out of bed, get dressed, perhaps – then suddenly find yourself back in bed. I have often had “chains” of these, where I’ve apparently woken up several times in a row. Again, finding something “wrong” can turn a false awakening into a lucid dream.
There are a number of techniques for training yourself to dream lucidly, mostly along the lines of conditioning yourself while awake or immediately before going to sleep. You can also buy expensive (and probably uncomfortable) electronic gadgets designed to turn ordinary dreams into lucid ones.
The techniques for healing, creativity and problem solving are similar to guided imagery, which is a helpful procedure in hypnotherapy. In fact, the very detailed imagery reported by clients undergoing past life regression is a very similar experience to lucid dreaming.
As I write this, I have in front of me two books, both titled Lucid Dreaming. One, by Stephen LaBerge (2004), is a short book concentrating on the practical aspects of inducing and using lucid dreams; the other, by Celia Green and Charles McCreery (1994), whom I mentioned in my blog on apparitions, is a detailed study with an academic slant. This book emphasises the close link between apparitions, lucid dreams, false awakenings – and then on to out of the body and near death experiences, which is probably where I’ll be going next…